Oklahoma joins other states questioning law used to shield tech companies from lawsuits

April 23, 2024 – Oklahoma Attorney General Gentner Drummond has signed onto a legal brief questioning a federal statute that shields tech companies from civil lawsuits.

The brief cites the lower-court dismissals of dozens of cases that say online platforms should be held accountable for allegedly facilitating crimes like human trafficking and sexual abuse.

One of those cases is John Doe v. Snap, IncThe defendant company owns Snapchat, a messaging app that automatically deletes messages after they’re viewed. The 15-year-old plaintiff in that case says this “defective design” enabled his teacher to groom him into an abusive sexual relationship.

The case was dismissed in lower courts, which cited Section 230 of Congress’s Communications Decency Act. The statute, enacted in 1996, says online platforms aren’t liable for their content in the way publishers are — instead, they’re “passive hosts.”

Doe has appealed his case to the nation’s highest court.

This week, several states, including Oklahoma, filed a brief asking the U.S. Supreme Court to consider Doe. v. Snap. They say Section 230 “allows online platforms to inflict widescale misery and escape liability for it.”

“Big Tech companies should not be held harmless when they fail to protect users from abuse,” Drummond said in a statement.

Drummond joins attorneys general from 21 other states and the District of Columbia in support of the plaintiff.

In 2020, the U.S. Department of Justice reviewed Section 230 and recommended reforms to incentivize online platforms to protect theirs users, particularly from child abuse, terrorism, and cyber-stalking.

By Graycen Wheeler, KOSU
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